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FESTIVALS Ireland

58th Cork Film Festival overview

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- With many hidden gems and a selection of creative initiatives, the programme of the Cork Film Festival was worth the ride

58th Cork Film Festival overview

Last Sunday, the 58th edition of the Cork Film Festival came to an end – the first year of new artistic director James Mullighan. Everyone agreed that it was among the best editions of the festival, considering the quality of the programme but also the many surprises and treats that were to be found in Cork during the course of the nine days.

The festival kicked things off with Nebraska by Alexander Payne, a harrowing tale that explores a father-son relationship in quiet Nebraska that is as touching as it is funny. Shot in beautiful black and white, this may also be the most crowd pleasing film Payne has made so far. The international closing film was Kill Your Darlings by newcomer John Krokidas, a trendy and entertaining look at the beat writers Ginsberg, Krokidas and Kerouac before they become someone, and the murder mystery that brought them together. Perhaps more impressive was the turn-out at the Irish closing film which took place in an Opera House and was Nick Ryan’s documentary The Summit [+see also:
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about the 2008 K2 disaster. This thrilling exploration of a forsaken adventure drew a crowd of 730 people, revealing the continuously upward scale in popularity of documentaries but also the healthy condition of Irish cinema.

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In fact, this being an Irish festival, the event did not disregard its domestic productions. The Shadows, a fantasy feature about a kid’s encounter with an alternative underground world based on a George MacDonald fairytale directed by Colin Downey is a heartfelt tribute to matinees and a more organic approach to the dull effects and costumes of similar contemporary specimens. Writer and filmmaker Maurice O’Callaghan brought his first feature since 1994’s Broken Harvest, a guerrilla filmmaking work called The Lord’s Burning Rain, which is based on a short story of his, once again examining the Irish revolution - this time through the eyes of a young man on a long horse ride. How to Be Happy, a feature rom-com made by the students of Filmbase in Dublin was a nice and ‘happy’ film starring Brian Gleeson as a marriage counsellor whose bad habit of getting it on with his clients eventually ends up getting him into trouble.

The Cork Film Festival also collaborated with the Ambulante Documentary Film Festival, focusing on Mexican cinema. This collaboration brought films such as Heli [+see also:
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by Amat Escalante and Marc Silver’s Who is Cristal Dayani? to the screen. Heli explores the influence of the dangerous drug trafficking in Mexico within a domestic setting with a powerful and tense tone and the unleashing of shock value images of violence and torture. Silver’s doc, which features Gael Garcia Bernal, looks at the journey to the Mexican border and Latin American immigration by starting off with the investigation of a decaying corpse found in the Arizona desert and the focus on his journey.

A third of the festival’s programme was made up of documentaries and some of these were truly exceptional. Starting with the sensorial and almost mystic experience of Caroline Martel’s Wavemakers, a study of the Ondes Martenot, a unique, magic and mysterious music instrument. Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton by Stephen Silha, Eric Slade and Dawn Logson successfully aims to revive the memory of poet and poetic filmmaker James Broughton by defying the conventional structure of biographical documentaries and conveying Broughton’s infectious positivity through an imaginative approach and exciting pace. (The Cork Film Festival also featured a programme of some of Broughton’s best film works such as The Bed and The Pleasure Garden screened in 16mm).

Tony Palmer was also the subject of a retrospective programme. His Leonard Cohen doc Bird on a Wire was shown along with his eight hour epic Wagner, which featured Richard Burton’s last role. The screening of his latest work Nocturne, a 360° examination of the figure of composer Benjamin Britten and his work, was among the most fascinating and troubling experiences of the festival. In fact, it is fair to praise the organising team for their passion and creativity in digging up this impressive feature little seen on the festival circuit and made for TV, giving it the proper attention it deserved and a worthy venue in the magic Triskel Christchurch.

Other gems in the programme included Chloé Robichaud’s inspired coming of age drama about a young girl’s alienating passion for running, Sarah Prefers to Run, Philippe Béziat’s invigorating documentary on the preparation of a staging of Verdi’s masterwork in Becoming Traviata [+see also:
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and Margarita by Dominique Cardona and Laurie Colbert – a 21st century take on Mary Poppins and a charming film with a leading lesbian character that strangely does not end in tragedy and isn’t controversy ridden.

Apart from the screenings, the Cork Film Festival also came up with many creative initiatives, such as the ‘Democratic Cinema’ where an audience could pick their own mini-programme during the course of a 540 minute session from an archive library. Live music and screenings gave way to audiovisual experimentations blending a retrospective of Felix the Cat shorts with the music of the High Llamas, a tribute to Italian giallo with live music from renowned harpist Serafina and A Field in England [+see also:
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visually remixed and punctuated by the energy of the music of Teeth to the Sea – in a programme curated by Philip Ilson of the London Shorts Film Festival. There were also meaningful debates and conversations about the future of cinema and ‘transmedia’ experimentations at an Emerge conference event.

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